Continuing the Fantasy Premier League 2018/19 team preview series, I look at the best picks, gambles and those to avoid completely for Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Huddersfield.
There is a RealSport league again this year, with another cash prize of £50. Head to the FPL site and use the code 20571-70568 or click here to enter.
Huddersfield (A); Arsenal (H); Newcastle (A); Bournemouth (H);, Cardiff (H); West Ham (A)
This is the sort of fixture list a new manager dreams of, and it’s exactly what Maurizio Sarri has lined up. Chelsea play two of last year’s new boys, two of this year’s new boys and two teams used to sitting in lower mid-table.
Arsenal in the second week will be a fascinating tie as both new managers look to assert dominance.
Eden Hazard (MID, 10.5m)
This could look pretty daft in a week if Eden Hazard does make the move to Real Madrid, but Sarri is desperate to hold on to the Belgian winger, and the reasons are pretty obvious.
REUTERS/Toru Hanai He was instrumental to Chelsea’s title march in 2016/17 and when he turns it on Chelsea look like a better team. If Sarri can persuade him to stay and get the best out of him then the Blues could go back to being title contenders.
Hazard had the best shot accuracy of any midfielder who took more than 25 shots last season, too.
Cesc Fabregas/Pedro (MID, 6.5m)
Either of these players could be the early bandwagon of the season. They are very kindly priced due to Antonio Conte using them less and less last season, but they have featured heavily for Chelsea in pre-season and shown they still have what it takes to make a difference for the Blues.
Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough If either of them gets a prolonged run in the team and hits decent form then it is absolutely a no-brainer, and it gives you some spare cash to fit in a few more expensive players! Despite playing severely reduced minutes Fabregas still created the third most chances of all midfielders.
Marcos Alonso (6.5m)
The most expensive defender in the game has been a revelation for the past two seasons. After Conte switched to 3-4-3 in 2016, Chelsea stormed the league, and Marcos Alonso’s control of the left flank was key to their success.
He practically played as a left winger for some of those matches and he has scored 13 goals in the last two years.
However, Sarri does not like the 3-4-3 formation and prefers a back four. This puts Alonso back to playing as a standard left back and it remains to be seen how much potential he has in a more limited position.
Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Watford (A); Southampton (H); Huddersfield (A); Newcastle (H)
Crystal Palace have been handed a great set of fixtures to start the season, and hopefully they will get more than they managed in their six opening matches last year!
There is a big cloud hanging over Selhurst Park, but if they get past that one way or another then they should be a team to invest in for the early stages of the season.
Wilfried Zaha (FWD, 7.0m)
Said big cloud is the future of Wilfried Zaha. He was their talisman last season, to the point that they failed to win a league match without him in the team.
If a move — either to Tottenham or Chelsea — does materialise before the window closes on Friday then it will be a big blow for Crystal Palace and FPL managers, as he is unlikely to have the same impact at a bigger club, or be played as an out-and-out striker.
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley However, if he stays at Palace then he will surely be another key man for fantasy managers to consider.
Zaha had the third most penalty box touches of all midfielders last year, and it would have been the second most for forwards.
Luka Milivojevic (MID, 6.5m)
Everybody’s favourite cheap enabler of last year has been given a price boost, but he is still very affordable. Luka Milivojevic scored ten goals, largely thanks to his prowess from the spot — he scored seven spot kicks, two more than any other player.
In that respect, it is quite likely that his output will be affected by the outcome of the Zaha saga, as the Ivorian winger won quite a few of those penalties for him to convert.
Andros Townsend (MID, 6.0m)
There are plenty of people in the game who regularly churn out impressive stats but don't have the output to match. Dusan Tadic was one, while Andros Townsend is another.
Action Images via Reuters/Alan WalterLast season he played the majority of available minutes and managed a respectable two goals and nine assists, but if he can start converting more chances he could be a steal at 6.0m.
Patrick van Aanholt (DEF, 5.5m)
Another FPL favourite, Patrick van Aanholt impressed towards the end of last season with some daring raids down the left-hand side.
He has scored five goals in each of the last two seasons, and if he can help the Eagles in keeping more clean sheets, then he could rival the Chelsea defenders for points.
Mamadou Sakho (DEF, 5.0m)
If 5.5m is a bit too steep for a Crystal Palace defender in your eyes — and I wouldn't blame you if it was — then Mamadou Sakho is the next best option. He has rediscovered his form since his move from Liverpool and is a rock at the centre of Hodgson’s defence.
Action Images via Reuters/Alan WalterHe is also a magnet for bonus points, finishing last season with the fourth most of all defenders and the most for any defender priced at 5.0m or cheaper.
Just like at Cardiff, I would avoid the Palace keepers. Julian Speroni and Wayne Hennessey both had chances to cement their place as the first choice between the sticks last season and, while Hennessey won, neither was particularly convincing.
They've also bought Vicente Guaita from Spain over the summer, and it remains to be seen if he will be a back-up option or push to overtake Hennessey.
Wolves (A); Southampton (H); Bournemouth (A); Huddersfield (H); West Ham (H); Arsenal (A)
Opening fixtures don't come much better as Everton take on a string of teams they will expect to beat. Only the trip to the Emirates in GW6 will be of real concern for Marco Silva as he looks to get Everton off to a flying start.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (MID, 7.5m)
His big money move to Everton didn't quite start in the way he would have hoped as the Icelandic FPL favourite struggled to replicate his form from Swansea.
However, they have moved on Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaassen, meaning he is the first choice number 10 for Silva, and that should give him the confidence to step up his game and become a real FPL option again.
Richarlison (MID, 6.5m)
Last season was a strange one for the Brazilian winger as he got used to life in England. He started under Silva at Watford and was an early season favourite, defying his price tag and designated position to take more shots than half the strikers in the league.
Action Images via Reuters/John CliftonHowever, he was a little wasteful and didn't make the most of his purple patch, and then Silva left the club and Richarlison lost all momentum.
He has now secured a move to rejoin with his former boss and hopefully he will start in the same way as last year (although hopefully with a little more accuracy). He had a chance every 23.2 minutes last season.
Cenk Tosun (FWD, 7.0m)
Last year was not easy for Cenk Tosun either; he made the move to Merseyside in January, took his time establishing himself within the team and scored five goals in roughly one third of a season.
This year should be better as he is already settled and under a manager who will play more creative, attacking football and supply him with plenty more chances. If it all clicks for Tosun he could be the perfect third forward.
Seamus Coleman (DEF, 5.5m)
With Lucas Digne arriving from Barcelona over the summer, it appears time is finally up for former FPL favourite Leighton Baines.
Action Images via Reuters/Ed SykesInstead, we should focus on the opposite fullback as he looks to make up for the time he lost while recovering from a broken leg. Coleman has been a great FPL asset for many years and offers attacking returns, while also helping Everton keep regular clean sheets.
Theo Walcott (MID, 6.5m)
Theo Walcott has always been an FPL troll. In his time in the Premier League he has scored a hat-trick or back-to-back goals before going quiet for months, drawing in those new owners and then letting them all down.
His time at Everton could be up with competition for places from Richarlison, Yannick Bolasie, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman, but I would steer clear even if he was guaranteed a starting berth.
Crystal Palace (H); Spurs (A); Burnley (H); Brighton (A); Man City (A); Watford (H)
It won't be an easy return to the Premier League for Fulham, as they face two very tough away trips in the opening weeks.
There is potential for returns from those home matches though, so if you can find a strong rotation pairing — West Ham, for example — then they could offer some cheap options.
Tom Cairney (MID, 5.0m)
When looking for newly promoted players it's important not to pay too much as there is a lot of uncertainty in their returns.
Tom Cairney is the perfect option for a fourth or fifth midfielder because he is almost as cheap as you can get in the game, while also being a key attacking asset for Fulham. He created 1.69 chances per game and got five assists last season.
Ryan Sessegnon (MID, 6.5m)
Ryan Sessegnon has garnered far more attention from the press and the FPL community than his teammates because he is a young, exciting talent who has been scouted by some of the biggest Premier League clubs.
However, 6.5m for a newly promoted player is definitely a gamble and his scintillating form in the Championship might not carry on into the new season.
I sincerely hope it does because it will be a lesson to all young players that securing a big money move as early as possible isn't necessarily the best option when you lose game time, but I will wait and see before jumping on this bandwagon.
Chelsea (H); Manchester City (A); Cardiff (H); Everton (A); Crystal Palace (H); Leicester (A)
It's not an easy start for Huddersfield as they look to overcome second season syndrome. Two horrendous games against the previous two champions along with away games against Everton and Leicester make it a daunting opening run.
They also face Spurs and Liverpool in the three matches after this, so I would avoid Huddersfield for now!
Aaron Mooy (MID, 5.5m)
The Australian midfielder was one of Huddersfield’s highest FPL scorers last season and made a name for himself in the league both as a combative midfield presence and an expert creator.
His output tailed off in the second half of the season, but he will still be the key man for David Wagner's side. He made more chances than any other midfielder priced at 5.5m or less.
Steve Mounie (FWD, 6.5m)
Wagner did like to chop and change his strikers last year, with none of them getting over 2000 minutes.
REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski I hope that this was due to him giving Steve Mounie an easy way to get used to the Premier League before unleashing his record signing this year. Last year he had a chance every 38 minutes and if he can step up his conversion rate he will be a great FPL asset.
Jonas Lossl (GK, 4.5m)
Jonas Lossl was crucial to Huddersfield's strong defence last year. He was ever-present in between the sticks for Wagner and was the best way into the Terriers' defence.
With those fixtures and Huddersfield's stature in the league you would need a decent rotation if you were to pick Lossl, but he would be a good choice for a cheap goalkeeper pairing.